The Motivation Matters
May 13, 2018
Last week we started our new series called “It Matters” and we talked a lot about what it is that matters. We”ll kick this thing off in 2 Corinthians 5 where Paul is talking to the church at Corinth. We know it's at least his third letter that he's written to this church with whom he's very close. He basically addresses this tension, that I hope as Christians we all feel, this longing to be at home, longing to be with the Father. At the same time we also understand that we're here on this side of eternity, and that the Gospel is alive and active and that God’s got work for us to do here. We talked about this idea of what we do now matters, and we ended in 2 Corinthians 5:11, where he says we work hard.
“We work hard because we understand the gospel.” We understand this task that we've been given and I think it's appropriate that today we're actually going to talk about the motivation behind the working hard. I think, especially on a day like Mother's Day, we would all attest that moms and parents, just in general, want good for our kids and want to work hard. I acknowledge and thank you moms for all you do, for the sleepless nights, the spit up, the teenagers, and everything that you do. Thank you for that. But what we want to get to today is the "why" we do what we do. Get to the motivation, to the heart behind what matters.
I'm going to read 2 Corinthians 5: 11-15, then we'll come back and try to break it down just a little bit. “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others and God knows that we're sincere. I hope that you know this too. Are we commending ourselves to you again, though we're giving you a reason to be proud of us, so that you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart, and if it seems that we're crazy, it's to bring glory to God and if we are in our right minds, it's for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us, and since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we've all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ who died and was raised for them.”
Let's just pray and ask God to speak to us through his Word this morning. God, again, we thank you for your Word. God, I thank you that your Word is alive and it's active and it's sharper than a two edged sword. So God, as we break into your Word this morning, here in 2 Corinthians 5, God, I pray that you would just speak to us as we try to get to the heart of what's going on in our lives and in the heart of our behavior. God just minister to us this morning. God, I pray first and foremost, if there are people in here this morning, and I believe that there are, that do not know you as their Lord and Savior, that haven't experienced your gospel, your grace, your mercy, I pray that this morning may be a morning that changes their lives forever. God for those of us who do understand and who are walking with you, God, I pray that you would share, that you would convict us, that you would encourage us, God, just by your spirit, that you would do whatever you need to do in our hearts in this place. Speak to us now. Get me out of the way. In Jesus' name. Amen.
So I wanted to go back to a 2 Corinthians 5:11, because I want to touch on just a little bit more of this verse that I kind of glossed over last week. He said, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others." We talked last week that Paul has this theme of now that you understand the gospel, there's work to do! Now that you understand who you are in Christ, get busy! He says right here, but now we understand our fearful responsibilities, get busy!
A lot of times I think that we kind of gloss over this fear of God thing. I want to make sure that I'm crystal clear on this, because if you guys are like me, how do we reconcile the Old Testament God and the New Testament God ? I talked with somebody actually two weeks ago about this same kind of question. Anybody ever have questions like that? How can this God that just took out entire nations, and slaughtered entire nations, because of their idolatry, how can this be the same New Testament God, when we talk about His grace and his mercy and his love. I want to challenge you with something and hopefully get you to see the Gospel, in a way that we don't always talk about, and that we don't always see in the Gospel. I want you to understand crystal clear. This is the exact same God. As a matter of fact, Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. Why? What does that mean? How ? Why is the fear of God the beginning of all wisdom?
We have to understand that we were created for one purpose and one purpose alone, Church, and that was to give God glory. Period. We're created to find our identity, our worth, our being, our everything, our significance in God. When we don't, when we choose to be God of our own kingdom, there's a price that has to be paid and that is the wrath of God. When we don’t, we’re not giving God Almighty the glory, the honor, the praise, and the worth that he's due.
Now, here's the beauty of the Gospel and here's what I want you to understand. Romans is crystal clear that we have all fallen short of that glory, that we are all sinners, that we are all idolaters and that we all want to be gods of our own kingdom. You guys know John 3:16. There's a God that loves us so much that he was willing to send his son, Jesus Christ, and make no mistake, I hope you caught the significance of that song. We sing “on a hill.” He was abandoned in the darkness to die, and when Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, hear me loud and clear. When Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, it wasn't just death. It wasn't just pain. It wasn't just suffering. He incurred the wrath of his father, God!
You have heard me talk about pornography addiction. You've heard me talk about the hate and anger and bigotry that I've experienced in my life and things that I wrestled with in the past. You need to understand that deserves death. That deserves condemnation. It deserves hell. It deserves separation from God. But there's a God who to be feared! There's a God who loved me so much that he poured his wrath out on his son, Jesus Christ, and please don't make light of that, and because he loved me so much that he was willing to pour his wrath out on his own son, I now become the righteousness of God. I'm adopted. I'm chosen. I'm forgiven. I'm accepted. I'm loved by a God who is to be feared, and a God who loves me dearly. And that's the gospel.
So Paul comes along here in 2 Corinthians 5:11. He says, now because you understand that we work hard, what's this work look like? Like what? What's it supposed to be like? We get to verse 12, and he says, “Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we're giving you a reason to be proud of us so that you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry.” So what's this work look like? I can tell you this, it's not spectacular ministry. Paul comes along and he says, listen, this isn't you. You don't work hard so that you can brag about having a spectacular ministry. You don't work hard so that you can brag about numbers. Brag about City Station. Brag about anything else.
Guys, I want to encourage you as parents this morning. I hope this is extremely freeing. God's grace is sufficient in your parenting and you need to understand specifically on this Mother's Day, and moms hear me loud and clear, you need to understand that your worth, your significance, your value, your hope, who you are, doesn't rest on how your kids turn out. I know that some of you guys are parents of three year olds and you're thinking my kids are going to be great. They'll be teenagers one day and you'll be thanking me for this sermon later. You need to understand that is not where your worth comes from.
I remember I had this conversation about a year and a half, two years ago. I was at the Irish Pub. I was eating fish and chips. That's my comfort food. I was just needing some comfort. I was having a conversation with this guy and I thought I was ministering, too. Conversation about City Station was starting up and how my leadership capability was starting to be overwhelming and losing sleep. He asked, “Shannon, how ARE you doing?” I answered, “What do you mean ‘how are you doing?’ ” He said, “Are you sleeping good?” Ha ha! “How's this new leadership going for you?” I thought, I’ve got to be honest, “I'm losing all kinds of sleep with all that I've wrestled with. It’s because I'm fully aware that what God is doing at Southern Hills and what he's asking me to do as a leader here at Southern Hills, I'm fully aware that God is the only one that can do this.”
You know what I'm talking about. I'm fully aware that God Almighty is the only one that can do this, but I'm also on this side of the fence, fully aware that God has given me gifts and abilities, and He's asked me to play a role in this. Anybody know what I mean? Do you wrestle with this and that? So I said, “I'm constantly going back and forth, not wanting to screw it up. I'm constantly going, okay, God, am I supposed to just what?” I remember telling Keith a couple of years ago, I feel like sometimes I'm just supposed to lean against the wall and go, all right God, part the Red Sea. I'm waiting. Then there's other times when I feel like God's going, no, I brought this person into your life. I've opened up these doors. You need to have these conversations.
So I told this guy, “Man, I am struggling. I don't want to mess it up.” He told me, “Shannon, you always talk about God's grace from the stage and that his grace is sufficient. Do you believe that?” I said, “With all my heart, I truly believe that with every fiber of my being. I believe his grace is sufficient.” He said, “Well, let me ask you this. Is His grace sufficient in your leadership?” I just looked at him and was taken back. And he said, “Where's your heart man? What's the motivation behind why you do what you do as the lead pastor at Southern Hills?” I told him, “With all my heart, I promise you. I'm not saying I don't slip. I don't fall, but my heart is surrendered to the Lord. I'm desperately trying to lead the way he's called me to lead.” He said, “Then can't you trust that God's grace covers you when you overstep and when you don’t." That was the most freeing conversation that I've had in the last five years of my life and all of a sudden I began to realize the same thing applied to my parenting. The same thing applies to my relationships and parents. I want to tell you this morning, I know that some of you guys look back on the way you've parented. Some of you guys probably have grown kids and you look back and you live in condemnation.
I talked with a guy after second service and he shared, “This is just killing me. I'm wrestling with this because I had three years of my life that I just wasn't in my kids' lives and I'm constantly afraid I screwed them up.” I said, “You’ve got to understand that even in the midst of your stupidity, even in the midst of your selfishness, God's grace is still sufficient.” So parents, I want to challenge you this morning. I want to encourage you this morning that God's grace is good, and as Paul would say, here in 2 Corinthians 5, your measure of worth as a parent isn't in how your kids turn out, because at the end of the day, and this is the hardest thing as a parent, I cannot be my savior and I've made mistakes. I mean, honestly, I look back. You guys know my story. We adopted three of our kids later in life and thankfully for them, they were coming into our family about the time, I was truly understanding God's grace and the Gospel. I especially look at Aidan, my oldest biologically, and who's getting ready to graduate. Up until he was probably thirteen years old, I parented him from my kingdom, for my glory. It painted a pretty picture. It gave the presentation of godliness, but the reality is the heart behind my parenthood was so far from the Gospel. I've wrestled and I've had sleepless nights. I've prayed and God has just revealed to me that his grace is sufficient and his grace is sufficient today and ultimately God is working in my kids' lives and I can't. All I can do now is walk out the Gospel and model the Gospel in my kids' lives.
So what's this work look like? How do we measure this heart that he talks about? Because he says it's not in spectacular ministry, but he says it's rather in having a what? Search at the end of verse twelve, a sincere heart, a heart that is genuinely surrendered. I talked with some college student last week who asked, “How do I know? I genuinely want to know that my heart is chasing after the Lord.” I was able to encourage him. I said, “Well, first of all, the fact that you had the guts and the humility to walk over to me after the service and say, “I desperately want to know, is my heart surrendered to the Lord?” He responded, “I do, I have a sincere heart.” I said, “Man, that’s beautiful.”
The day we quit wrestling as followers of Jesus Christ is the day that I step back and I go, hey that scares me because God's doing a work in us. He promised he's going to be faithful to complete it. But he says, listen, have a sincere heart. So how do we know what a sincere heart looks like? He says, if it seems that we're crazy in verse thirteen, it's to do what, Church? To bring glory to God, to bring glory to God!” Number one way to know if your hard is sincere is. Is your life about bringing glory to God? I know that you guys are thinking, “I'm at Church this morning.” Now, come on, let's be real. Is your heart genuinely about bringing glory to God and the way that you parent, the way that you're a boss and the way that you're an employee.
I‘m looking at the kids in Walmart, on the floor. Come on, don't judge me. You know what I'm talking about? And I’m like my kids don't do that. Right? And then my kids grew up. But listen, I do want to apologize if that's your kid. I'm sorry. God's grace is sufficient. All right? But listen there was a day when my parenting was all about me. I mean it had this semblance of this is how Loveladys act. But at the end of the day, it had nothing to do about God's glory. It was all about my glory. It was, “You will not embarrass me in Walmart. Seriously, you will not talk back to me that way because I'm king of my household.” You guys are sitting here going, whoa. So you're telling me that my kids' behavior doesn't matter. No, that's not at all what I'm telling you. What I'm telling you is I believe the gospel applies to your kids as well. Your kids need to truly understand that their worth, their value, their hope, their meaning, their significance, everything about them comes from Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone and not what they want, not what they desire and not what they think matters in this life.
When your kids truly understand the gospel, that there is a God who took the wrath of God, placed the wrath of God on His Son on a cross so that we could lay down our lives and have life to the full, when your kids get that, guess what? It changes their behavior, but not because of my glory, not because of my kingdom, not because of my rules, not because of dad's wrath. It is for the glory of God. And so I want to ask you, Dad, I want to ask you, Mom, on this Mother's Day, why do you do what you do? Why do you talk to your kids the way you talk to your kids? I mean it's subtle. Don't play games.
I dare you to pray like David prayed. “Lord, search my heart for any unclean ways within me,” and I promise you, He'll reveal to you where you are with your parenting. For your glory versus God's glory. You're boss for your glory versus God's glory. Some of you bosses are going, my work matters. You better believe your work matters if you own a business, but it doesn't matter the reason you think it matters. The reason it matters is that God has given you a brain and he's given you a talent. He's given you gifts that are ultimately for His glory and He's put employees under your leadership, not so that you can lord over them and they can make you more money, but so that you can draw them to Christ. Again, I'll go back to this because we understand the gospel. There's one thing that matters because we understand the gospel. We work hard whether we're a boss, whether we're an employee, whether we're a teacher, whether we're a student. You better believe it matters! I believe wholeheartedly that when my kids understand the Gospel, things change, not because they're scared of dad, but because they understand that they are a new creation. When they understand the gospel and where their worth comes from, it changes how they live their lives, and their grades, and how they treat their teachers, and how they live with their neighbors. How they do all of these things, and how they forgive. It changes all of that, but it's not out of guilt and shame and condemnation. It's out of God's glory.
So again, wherever you find yourself, why do you do what you do? You want to know if your heart is surrendered? Do you want to know if your heart’s sincere? Are you genuinely living your life for God's glory or is it for yours? And then Paul goes on in 2 Corinthians and he says this. He says, “If it seems we’re crazy, it's to bring glory to God and if we are in our right minds.” What's he saying? It's for your benefit. It's for your benefit. You want to know if your heart’s sincere. Does your life benefit others and by benefiting others, I mean, are people drawn to Christ because of your life? When people are around you, do they leave wanting to be more like Christ? Do they want to leave quickly when they're around you because you’re nothing like Christ in the way that you parent, in the way that you are in the workplace? Is the way that you teach, is the way that you're a student? Go down the list. Wherever you find yourself in life, is your life because of God's glory, because of what he's done in you? Is it a benefit to others? Is it making people hungry? Does it? Does it make people desire what you have or do they think, ah, if that's what being a Christian is, I want nothing to do with it.
If a heart is sincerely surrendered to the Lord, Paul says, your life's about God's glory benefiting others because of his glory. So I think the reality is, if we're honest as we all sit here, I think every single one of us in this room, as believers, as followers of Jesus Christ would say, gosh, yeah, that's what I want to be. I desperately want a life that gives God glory, and if you don’t, honestly again, I would say you need to check if you're a believer or not. I think we would all sit here and say I desperately want a life that, because of God's glory, the lives of people around me change. People are drawn to Jesus Christ because of how I live. I want that, but I think the million dollar question is, “How in the world do I do that? It's so hard, Shannon.”
I think Paul would say, “Actually, no, it's not. It's this simple,” and so he goes on. He says, “this is how you live this way.” He says, “Either way, Christ's love controls this. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we've all died to our old life.” Sound familiar? “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves.” They'll no longer live for themselves. Instead, they'll live for who? “For Christ who died, who died and was raised for them.” It's that simple.
I gotta be honest: we so overcomplicate this. The Gospel is not complicated. It's just not. I mean, it is so simple. It is the most simple thing on the planet that we're created for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that was to bring God glory. But we decided we wanted to bring ourselves glory. Yet Christ loved us so much that he took the wrath on the cross so that when we understand what He did for us, we could fully lay down our lives and say, "I don't want to live for myself anymore because of what You've done for me. I want to live for you." So I crucify Shannon so that Christ can live. That's it. That's the Gospel, period. I mean, it's simply, it's just a choice, Church. That's it. And it's not a one time choice. It's a choice now and again and again and again.
I’ve got to tell you that before first service, I was getting ready to walk out to preach and I was wrestling. You want to know why I was wrestling, because of the way someone interacted with me before first service. The immediate thought was, “what did I do? This person's upset with me.” So I'm sitting there backstage right before getting ready to walk out to preach that my life doesn't revolve around what people think about me. My life revolves around what Jesus thinks about me and who I am in Christ. Yet at the same time, I'm backstage pacing and I had to choose in that moment, as God is my witness, I had to choose in that moment to say, “Kill that Shannon. That's stupid. Kill yourself so that Christ can live. It doesn't matter if this person's upset with you or not.” If I did and this person is upset, of course, it's my obligation as a brother to go and make things right, but I'm not going to find my worth in what this person thinks about me. I'm gonna find my worth in who I am in Christ. So I had to choose backstage right before I walked out, and again, this is so stupid, but this is the gospel. This is the gospel. Kill that so Christ can live. That's it, and I'll have to do it again today. I will, because I'm looking around this room right now and some of y'all are thinking, I'm going to be, “oh, kill that. Doesn't matter what they think, Christ needs to live right now.” That's the Gospel.
It's afternoon. All my family's coming over to the house for Mother's Day. Seemed like a great idea yesterday that they're going to come over. They're going to swim at 2:30. I'm going to be like, “oh my gosh, why did we do this?” Because I want my nap time, but you know what I'm going to do seriously. Kill Shannon so that Christ can live, so that you can honor your mother, so that she can honor your wife so that your niece, nephews, and nieces can have a good time enjoying this pool that God's given. You kill Shannon so that Christ can live.”
That's it. And then 3:30, 4:00, I'm going to go do a wedding. Yeah, Nathan and Amelia Beam. Love them to death, but come 4:00 I'm going to be, “ohhh!” But you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to go down to the pool. I'm going to go take a shower and Natasha is going to get dressed. Why? Because I'm going to kill Shannon so that Christ can live and I can honor them and be a part of their day and four hour reception. What is that? Good grief. Straight up. I'm not eating cake, man. I'm not staying there four hours. I'm done and I'll give a couple, but four hours? I don't like that trend. Parents, I don't like that trend. I like the short ceremony, but not the four hour reception thing. What I’ll do is Natasha and I will go and we will lay down our lives. We will sit, we will choose to kill flesh so that Christ can live and we can sacrifice ourselves and love on people.
Then we'll get home and my kids will still be my kids. Hopefully, the house will be spotless, but if not, I will have an opportunity to kill Shannon so that Christ can live. Does that mean I don't parent? Does it? No. Does that mean there's not consequences? No. What it means is that I teach my kids where their worth is in the way that I talk to them, in the way that I treat them, in the way that I teach them responsibility.
That's the gospel. That's it. And then tomorrow I'll come to work. I'll be tired. So with my own staff, we'll have an issue. Kill Shannon so that Christ can live. That's the gospel. You guys go to your workplaces. You’ll go to your homes. You'll go to your neighbors that get on your nerves, whatever it might be, and you'll have an opportunity from the second you walk out these doors to lay down your life, to sacrifice self so that Christ can live. Why do you do what you do? We do what we do because we want what we want. My question would be believer, follower of Jesus Christ, ask yourself this sincere question: What do you really want?
Do you want Christ and all that He brings and for Him to be glorified, or do you want to be glorified? Some of you, it’s time to quit fighting it. Lay down your life, give up your life so that he can live. If that's you, I'm going to be over here. There'll be other people over here. I would love to talk with you. I'd love to pray with you. If you want to get baptized today, I'd love to do that. Whatever you need to do, lay down your life so that Christ can live. Some of you are going I just don't know what the next steps are. Come back next week. I'm going to talk about how we take care of ourselves and how we make sure that we are growing in our private time so that Christ can continue to live. But God's also given us the church to walk this out together.
I hope you guys understand there's no shame in admitting you're a sinner and that you need the church to walk this out with you. We believe in that. If that's you, there's people. I’d love to do that. Do you just need somebody to pray with you this morning? Make today the day that you take that step to say, my life isn't going to be about me anymore. It's about Christ crucified and now alive in me. Then make that next step and the next step and do it again and again and again. Watch this peace that passes all understanding, this joy beyond all comprehension. This forgiveness that the world doesn't understand. God's grace is good.
I'm going to pray and then we're going to dismiss and I just pray that you guys are blessed today. God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you that you've given us hope, that His name is Jesus Christ who now lives in us. God, I thank you for that and the unmerited favor that you just pour out on us daily now. Thank you for being patient with us as we walk this out. God, if there are those today that need to experience you, maybe for the first time, or just need help walking through life. God, I pray that they would have the courage and the humility to do that today. God again. thank you for loving us. Thank you for Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen